Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: OneRepublic - Feel Again (single)

Ugh, what a busy month!!! So many things to get done on my workplace I didn't even had time for writing on this blog. Sorry guys, but I really busy this last 3 weeks. So busy I even go to office on Saturday (Saturday!!!) to finish things :(

Now those hectic weeks passed, I want to share this new single by OneRepublic. Well, not exactly new, since it been out for like, 3 months ago, but still, from a band which didn't get much coverage last year (especially since their last album is definitely a flop), this single is like their gambling to the world of fame (their debut album is definitely good).

So, what of their newest single, which titled "Feel Again"? When I listened to it the first time, I though it was one of Coldplay songs. The drum track, the clapping, the melody, the vocals; the hypnotic atmosphere created really reminds me to Coldplay. Watch the videclip, and the similarity is even stronger: the light, the party, the shooting angle.

From lyrical point of view, the lyrics is very simple, "I'm feeling better since you know me / I was a lonely soul but that's the old me" just cant compete with "I loved you with a fire red, / Now it's turnin' blue..." from Apologize, or even "We'll have the days we break /  And we'll have the scars to prove it / We'll have the bombs that we saved / And we'll have the heart / Not to lose it" from Marching On. And just don't even try to compare it to Coldplay lyrics. Just don't.

I like the videoclip, the light play is amazing. The sweet scene where a man give a women flower-with-lighbulb-on-it is nice, giving sweet touch to the hypnotic-party atmosphere. Again, reminiscence of Coldplay. But that's ok, since this single is divers to OneRepublic previous songs (which quite heavy and tiring).

Overall, nice single. The different atmosphere invoked is differs nicely with their last albums. Nice videoclip too, really love the lightbulb play. I just wish it less felt like Coldplay and more OneRepublic.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review: Christina Aguilera - Lotus (updated)

Hello there! How are you? Have you listened to Mrs. Aguilera newest album yet? No? Then maybe you will find this review pretty old-school.

The cover is quite interesting: the naked Mrs. Aguilera rising from a lotus blossom. Don't worry, the interesting parts are hidden, so it's still quite safe. The pinkish color used is bit departure from Christina Aguilera image of sexy, mature diva. It's just so girly, like the cover you will find on some girl-band from Japan or Korea.

The Album Cover.

I have the Lotus Deluxe Version which contained 17 tracks below:
  1. Lotus Intro
  2. Army of Me
  3. Red Hot Kinda Love
  4. Make the World Move (feat. CeeLo Green)
  5. Your Body
  6. Let There Be Love
  7. Sing for Me
  8. Blank Page
  9. Cease Fire
  10. Around the World
  11. Circles
  12. Best of Me
  13. Just a Fool (with Blake Shelton)
  14. Light Up the Sky
  15. Empty Words
  16. Shut Up
  17. Your Body (Martin Garrix Remix)
This albums is quite diverse in music style, although generally still dance oriented. I loved the marching drum touch on Cease Fire, Around the World and Best of Me (sometimes I found myself humming the chorus baby cease fire, fire, fire, while walking like an idiot. Yes, it's that infectious).
Throw in Christina's vocal of gymnastic, and you got powerful, energetic, toe tapping album. Although personally I feel Mrs. Aguilera sounded bit strained on some songs, but then, that screaming-like, powerful soprano IS Christina brand-style.

The lyrics is quite standards, you know, for a dance pop albums. You got some interesting lyrics now and then (Use my name as your claim to fame / Got my smell of success on your breath on Circle), but others are the usual stuff. I felt this album lyrics is mainly about how she got herself up and strong after some big break-up. Pardon my ignorance, but I really didn't interested on the artist life, all I interested is their musics.

Not all the songs are dance oriented song with bass pounding, however. There are some track's which quite a keeper. I personally like Sing for Me and Blank Page. Just a Fool is quite likeable actually, if not for how it sounded like a battle contest between Christina Aguilera vs. Blake Shelton. Please Mrs. Aguilera, Mr. Shelton, this is not a battle round of the Voice, play nice!!! Speaking about Blake Shelton, I just always thinking his name spelled backward, Shelton Blake sounded just so much more nicer!!! LOL.
Some grippe: the bonus tracks Light Up the Sky sounded like something out of Ryan Tedder's song book while Empty Words sounded just like the one you got from Leona Lewis old album Echo. Why not include more different tracks?

The production isn't that great, with my DR150 (which is quite detailed), I can hear how the instruments got smashed together: no separation, air, soundstage. The bass is mainly on mid-bass area, with big boomy sound to boot. The treble too, get too piercing sometimes, I need toning down about 3-5db on frequencies of 5 kHz and up on my foobar2000 equalizer. I hate doing equalizer, but this album won't listenable for long time if I don't do that.
On busy tracks, Christina vocals is going laid back, thankfully, reducing the fatigue immensely. On the simpler tracks however, you could hear how glorious Christina Aguilera vocal technique is. Pity she didn't includes more of those kind of songs.
Update: the production is really awful, opening a track on audacity, I can see how the track clipped. The compression is really high!

Verdict? Quite easy, if you like Christina Aguilera, you just had to listen to this album. For dance oriented song, maybe you better go to Rihanna albums. This album is a mix-and-match kind of album. Not quite dance-pop (although most of the songs of dance-pop flavored), but not quite balad-pop either. The result is an album which not too mainstream, but also have it's own flavors.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lana Del Rey - Paradise (EP) Review (updated)

Hello again, how are you? Me back with another review (again. sigh).
The album I want to share is titled Paradise (EP) from Lana Del Rey. Remember her? You know, the one who became Internet sensation sometimes ago when her video goes viral? Etc, etc. Yeah, that Lana.
Actually, you can find this EP as two version: as Paradise (EP) and as Born To Die the Paradise Edition, which, as it's name suggest, include tracks from her Born To Die album. I personally think you better go for the EP, that's if you have already buy the previous album.

The cover is very nice, Lana, with her hair flowing, standing on some beach (or maybe pool?) with tropical trees (coconut, maybe?) seen behind. The color used, which going for red-yellow, gave this Lana this golden shine. That, and the gold font used, gave the cover a classic and luxury feeling. Well, that's me anyway.

Paradise (EP) Cover
Born To Die The Paradise Edition Cover
The EP consist of 8 tracks, with some difference depends on where you buy your album (or EP). The tracks list:
  1. Ride
  2. American
  3. Cola
  4. Body Electric
  5. Blue Velvet
  6. Gods & Monsters
  7. Yayo
  8. Bel Air
This EP still had Lana's oldie signature: low sultry voice singing with darkness-tinged music, crying hedonism and broken life. Personally, I think Paradise is much better than Born To Die, all tracks on Paradise is more mature. Each track has it's own main theme, from slum-and-road theme on Ride, Las Vegas-night life tinged American and Cola, to sprinkle of Arabian night on Body Electric. The classic Blue Velvet, the more modern Gods & Monsters, to simple and very, very boring Yayo (at least compared to the other tracks), and finished with soft and airy Bel Air. Each different, but still managed to get whole.

I really like the string which accompanied most of the tracks giving the EP the warm-and-melancholy feeling, with a sprinkle of majestic thrown in. And the drums too, very nice. Add sparkling electric guitar, and you got a classic but tap-inducing (although quite draining) album. And boy, that arrangements works very well with Lana's voice.

Yes, the lyrics still wasn't the best ('my pussy tasted like pepsi-cola', really? Yes, it's still emotionally draining (have you see the music video? Lana had some of the most beautifully crafted music videos. Beautiful, though emotionally draining). And yes, there are some tones which similar to her last album, but as an EP, I still think this is a solid album good. The music guitars, the drums, the strings (which I really fond of), the voice, it's all make one solid album (or EP's, which ever you call it).

Pretty Recommended.

edit: adding some more words, paragraphs to make it bit longer.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: The Haunted Man. Me, not dead, yet.

Me, still alive and kicking, even after missing for like, forever. Okay, not forever, but still, the last blog post is on July, for heaven sake. I'm sorry for abandoning this blog for several month, you know, I got busy with my new job. And just can't muster enough mood and energy for writing.

Anyway, I'm back now, and I hope I can update this blog more regularly. Now, I want to inform you about this cool album by a singer named Bat for Lashes. What a strange name don't you think?! Her album is titled "The Haunted Man". You had to see the album cover: a naked girl (or woman?) shouldering a naked boy (or man?). Really a distinct cover.

The distinct cover.

The track list is below:
  1. Lilies
  2. All Your Gold
  3. Horses of the Sun
  4. Oh Yeah
  5. Laura
  6. Winter Fields
  7. The Haunted Man
  8. Marilyn
  9. A Wall
  10. Rest Your Head
  11. Deep Sea Diver
The album has a distinct atmosphere. The musics is simple yet powerful, the simplicity of it creating dark, mysterious scenes. You could hear every nuance of Natasha Khan (the singer's real name) voice. Beautiful.

One way or another, this album reminds me to Fiona Apple's last album: both had this beautiful simplicity although I think Bat for Lashes sounded more pop than the more jazzy Fiona Apple. And "The Haunted Man" had a more majestic feeling than "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw & Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do" (yes, that's Fiona Apple album's title, quite a mouthful yes?).

Overall, I really like Bat for Lashes's The Haunted Man. It carry distinct sound while keeping the music simple, yet not boring to listen to. For you who appreciate good music with good vocals, I recommend you to try this out.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Me, back at last!

Yohohohoho..... howdy?!?! It's me!!! I'm baaaaaaaakkkkk..... yeah!!!
How y'all going?! Still breathing? Missed me? Nope?! Doesn't matter, had *** (you listener to The Lonely Island song must know what those asterisk means :D :D).

Anyway, now I'm back online, so expect some reviews soon. I got an ebook reader, four novels, and two albums to review. Ugh, I don't know if I post all of them, I'm pretty busy with my job.

Anyway, I'm just saying hello, and to say:

"Happy Ramadhan, hope our Fasting accepted by Allah and emerge from this trial as one of the winners"

Just wait for my reviews, ok? Because I got my paws on Tim Marquitz "At The Gates" at last....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Rant: Lack of Update

I apologize for lack of update for several weeks ago and, unfortunately, for several weeks to come. Last month I was sent by my workplace into one of it's branch of office on Kalimantan (or Borneo Island for some of you know it). And I got quite busy with my new workplace, with my new position, etc.

My last article (review of a locally branded headphone you could find it here) is several weeks old now, and I just can't find time (or mood) to write new articles. Las week my phones which also work as my modem, got lost while I'm on the road. So now I have no internet connections. This update is written on an internet cafe which pretty expensive and not very comfortable. Definitely not gonna improve my writting mood. Oh, and no more article about Nexian Cosmic Journey a.k.a. Gsmart G1315. Sorry.

I got several things to review: ebook reader and several novels. I got my hand on Indonesian version of Earthsea Trilogy, but I haven't got time to read them yet as right now I'm trying finishing rereading The Wheel of Time series (I'm at book eleven, The Knife of Dream). It's really a great series, and no matter how many times I reread it, it always gave me this chills and excitement. I wholeheartly recommend you to read it.

I enjoy my stay here at Balikpapan very much. Lot of people here comes from Java Island, so it felt like I'm at my birthplace. The food is alright, although everything tasted rather sweet, sweeter than I used to be, and quite bland, product of how expensive spice here, but nothing unmanagable. Actually, every things is more expensive here than Jakarta!

Balikpapan is really a clean city, I heard it's the second cleanest city after Singapore for Eastwest Asia. That's not a small feat, considering Balikpapan had several oil processing plants and some factories. Balikpapan also had clean and fresh air, and lot of hills (or what they call as "Gunung" or Mountain in English). Rather hot on the day, and some night also, but nothing like my birthplace at the middle of the dry season is.

So, that's all. I will try to give update as soon as possible. I hope I can obtain internet connection soon, or I will go MAD. I really can't live without internet, thingking about it made me shudder. Brrr... the horror...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: dbE Acoustics HP30 Fullsized headphone

It was started when a post started on our local audiophile forum about a loaner program for locally branded headphone. Without wasting times I signed myself in, and fortunately chosen. Now, after several weeks listening and comparing to my other headphone, I would like to give my though about it.

The Package.
dbE HP30 headphone comes with a big cardboard box. You could see from the photo I took how it compared to my Goldring DR150 box I apologize, it seems the photo is missing... will update with new photos. Photo added. The box itself looked nice. Opening it, I found another box which contain the headphone. The inside box is nice and sturdy, but I don't like how the outer cardboard felt, it's felt flimsy.

Open the inside box, and you will find the headphone nestled on cloth covered hollow. It also include a 6.3mm adapter jack and an extension cable, and some papers of course. Overall packages is quite nice, the cloth covered headphone placement help creating expensive impression. I just wish the outer cardboard is as good as inside box. Or ditch the outer box entirely, and print the label and what-not directly to the inside box surface.

The Build.
The headphone holder is made from machined aluminum with brushed finish. It's an open headphone, and you can see the metal mesh with a metal plate printed with the company name. The headphone back is made from some hard plastic, half painted silver inline with the silver holder and metal mesh, while the other half is black.

On top, the headband is covered with a smooth pleather (or what I guess is). It has some padding on it, which felt nice on my head. Maybe the material used didn't had that expensive feeling, especially the material holding the two side of pleather together (and the one hold the velvet pad), but for the price I think it's good enough.

I really like the velvet pad used on dbE HP30, it soft and very, very nice on my skin. It actually smoother and denser than the velvet pad used on my Goldring DR150. The cup is wide and deep, my quite large ears had no problem going inside at all.

At first I though this headphone would press my head like a gripping machine, but when I bend the headband a little bit to place it on my head, I quite surprised how easily it bend. And it the clamp is very nice, not too strong, and not too weak. It just... right. My DR150 had stronger grip than HP30. This headphone bit heavy, on the same scale as my DR150, I think. Wearing my AudioTechnica SJ33 after HP30 or DR150 is like wearing nothing at all, because it's so light, and the clamping force is even lighter than HP30.

Overall, dbE HP30 looked and felt nice. Maybe some would say it looked similar to another headphone from Germany brand, but I had no idea how similar since I don't have the mentioned headphone on hand for comparison. HP30 did look expensive, though.

The Sound.
This headphone is a loaner from dbE Acoustics, so it already burned in. How does it sounded? I think its a neutral one. Comparing it to my AudioTechnica SJ33 and Goldring DR150, dbE HP30 placed right on the middle, maybe little bit on SJ33 side. So middle ground leaning to bright side I think.

While I said leaning on bright side, the treble isn't that bright. My SJ33 is brighter than HP30. The treble is smooth, well extended, with some roll off on highest frequencies. Nothing too glaring, but not too roll of like my DR150 either. Very polite. The treble is pretty nimble, better than my DR150 I think. But then maybe that because DR150 treble is rolled off earlier than HP30. Listening to HP30 after DR150 is like going to a room with lot of open windows and light after a dark, damp and warm sauna room. The treble is just free, airy, and nimble.

Vocal is brighter than my DR150, bit on lean side. But not bright like my SJ33 does. Really, it just like on middle ground between SJ33 and DR150, with HP30 located bit on SJ33 side. Vocals has this airy sound, much more than my DR150. On some vocals (especially on high female vocals), this contribute to nice, and airy vocals, but on heavier vocals (like baritone males, contralto females), this take away those nice chest sound. The King's Singers baritone part on 'Scarborough Fair' sounded leaner, and brighter than on my DR150, which has dark, meaty sound on it. On the other side, HP30 render light vocals of Celtic Woman sopranos better: airier, and nimbler.

Bass is leaner than both my DR150 and SJ33. HP30 sub-bass is pretty rolled off, while the mid-bass is quite polite. Punchy, but nothing like my DR150. My SJ33 has much more sub-bass than HP30. Bass on HP30 is tad looser too. Comparatively, mid-bass HP30 is tad leaner than SJ33. The detail is quite good, almost as good as SJ33 but nothing compared to DR150 (which understandable, seeing the price bracket). HP30 mid-bass is quite good actually, it can hold it's own compared to SJ33 which marketed as portable DJ headphone.

HP30 has a forward presentation, which combined with the airy sound, make vocals quite nice. Guitars sounded crisp, although not as meaty or thick as DR150 but, crispier. The bite is not on SJ33 level though, since SJ33 has this peaky treble which help give more bite to guitars. Strings also had more bite and air to it, compared to DR150, just as flute had. Listening to same song with flute and strings on it, it's like DR150 took dark and mournful side while HP30 take on keening and airy side. SJ33 take cut-your-skin approach.

For musical genre, I think HP30 very good at acoustic with not too many instrument on it. The separation is pretty good, little bit better than my SJ33 because HP30 has more depth to it sound. The depth isn't that detail however, compared to my DR150, but for the price I think it's pretty good. As I said before, SJ33 place all instrument on same distance. HP30 had more 3D sound than my SJ33, but positioning is quite vague, again compared to my DR150 which priced much higher, but much better than my SJ33 which place almost everything left and right.

Heavy metal, speed metal, trash, and those fast paced metals are no go. HP30 relaxed sound just didn't render those speed correctly. But for slow rock, acoustic rock, or folk-rock I think HP30 manage alright.
Fast club song, vocals club song also no go. The sub-bass just isn't enough. Amr Diab 'Maak Bartaah' from his last album 'Banadeek Taala' sounded so lean, the bass just isn't satisfying. At all. For this kind of musics (club, dance and metals), I think my SJ33 is much better choice. Faster pace, satisfying bass (and sub-bass), forward vocals, and more treble to convey the energy.

Classical piece is alright, if you don't mind how HP30 presented all the instruments forwarder than the usual. If you think DR150 turn classical piece into rock concert, HP30 will turn classical piece into LIVE rock concert. It's too forward for instrumental classical piece I think. For this price range, I still think Superlux HD668B as the best headphone for instrumental classical musics.

HP30 is quite forgiving for badly recorded musics and or low quality musics, just like my SJ33. It's quite musical, listening to HP30 you won't focus on individual sound, but to the music itself. Not like HD668B which dissect music so every flaw apparent.

The Verdict.
dbE Acoustics first full-sized headphone HP30 is a nice headphone. The packaging and build looks very expensive. Open design allowing open and airy sound, forward vocals, punchy bass (although rather lean on sub-bass), and moderate to slow pace make it great headphone for pop, jazz, slow musics, vocals, and acoustics. But if you want headphone for fast paced music, or deep, meaty, satisfying bass, you better look else where.

Recommended, if your music taste is right.

PS: it's priced about IDR400.000,00 if I'm not wrong. I use a FiiO E10 DAC on my review.

Thank you for dbE Acoustics for supplying the loaner unit. It's very nice experience!!!

» Old Photos «

Monday, April 09, 2012

Review: Goldring DR150 FullSized Headphone

It's been several weeks since I got my Goldring DR150 from Jaben. Now it's time to write a review about it. Actually, you can found my first impression on a fully burned DR150 on Jaben here, but I don't fell right if not wrote a full review of it.

The Package.
Goldring DR150 come in cardboard box with transparent window so you could see the headphone itself. The chosen colors, the letters, and the design are very attractive. It reflect the above USD100 price tag of it. Inside are the headphone it self, 3m detachable silver plated 99.999% oxygen free copper cable (or so it said on the package), golden plated 3.5mm to 6.3mm plug adapter, and Jaben pins. Ops, the Jaben pin isn't included by default. Sorry, my bad.

The Build.
The headphone made from plastic with metal mesh on the back. The pad is from velour, and so do the pad on the headband. It's much heavier than my AudioTechnica SJ33, but still lighter than Shure SRH440 (again, read my previous impression). The plastic is okay, though Shure SRH440 got better build: sturdier, nicer to touch, but heavier. Maybe it's because DR150 is for more home use, while SRH440 is for studio use, so it had to able to stand some rough handling. However, I think DR150 build is good enough for someone careless like me.

I could see some ripple on headband plastics, so the build is not as  good as Shure, which really good. The finishing touch too, could be better. There are some edge which could be smoother, etc.
The headphone look is okay. It look little ugly at first sight, but it has grown on me and now I think it look quite nice. From color perspective, I liked DR100 gray-black color combination much more than DR150 gray-silver. The silver accent on the rim of the metal mesh look nicer on gray-black combination than on gray-silver.

The detachable cable is nice. I don't know if the 99.999% oxygen free claim is true, so no comment on it. It has this rubbery finish which very pleasant to touch. It snap into 3.5mm jack on left side of the headphone quite strongly, so you don't have to fear it detached easily when pulled accidentally. Those detachable cable also mean it's easy to find cable replacement if the bundled one break, or mod the sound by using different cable materials (if you believe or could hear the differences).

The headphone itself is quite comfortable, the grip is rather hard on the first, but it lessened over the time. The headband is adjustable with several clicks which lock the headband on place. The velour pads is definitely comfortable and felt nice to touch.

The Sound.
This is my first open backed headphone so I quite surprised by how the sound-stage and positioning (layering) rendered. It's much better than my SJ33, which closed backed. Of course, price-wise, SJ33 is cheaper, but DR150 is simply at another level compared to it. DR150 sound-stage is wide, with very good separation and layer rendering. Listening to SJ33 after DR150, I could easily hear how SJ33 sound-stage is wide but flat, all instrument just placed at same level, while DR150 render the position beautifully. The dept is just very good on DR150.

The high is smooth, with enough sparkle to make it shine, but not bright. Definitely not bright. For comparison, listening to DR150 after SRH440, DR150 sounded like there is a veil over the sound. Cymbal is pretty crisp, although not as bright as SRH440, or MS1i. None of those sibilance, though, so it's easy on ears. Listening to DR150 after SRH440, it felt like going into a large and warm sauna room after a closed room with air cooler. MS1i, on the other side, felt like an open room with lot of air flow.
DR150 smooth and natural treble make my SJ33 sounded steely, cold and with lot of peak. DR150 also had some air to the sound which made my SJ33 sounded boxed. Not as airy as Alessandro MS1i, but enough to give breath on vocals and instruments. It's really refreshing after listening to SJ33

The mid is smooth and warm, with neutral presentation. It's neither forward nor laid back, actually it's quite versatile, when the recording is forward, the DR150 will sounded forward and vice versa. The vocal is luscious, and very, very nice. SJ33 sounded dry compared to DR150.
Male and female vocals rendered equally good. It's doesn't matter what kind vocals I threw at it, DR150 render them both good, Scotty McCreery low voice is as good as Andrea Bochelli tenor. High female vocal, like Sarah Brightman soprano is rendered beautifully, just like Amy Winehouse sultry contralto voice is.

The bass is thick, meaty and warm. It has bigger bass, both in quantity and quality than my SJ33. The bass is so detailed, SJ33 sounded like one big blob of bass. The mid bass is pretty good, detailed and punchy. None of the bass bleed to mid. I think DR150 bass is mostly on mid-bass though, while SJ33 had lot of sub bass. Tone down 200-100Hz (via equalizer), and the bass will loose lot of it punch.

Detail and micro-detail, Goldring DR150 absolutely murder my AudioTechnica SJ33. It's really no contest. I just can ear all those tiny sound, like when a player put down something or turn a page, or how the guitar string twanged against the wood board, how the singer open her mouth before singing, how the piano keys make those little click sound when they pressed... It's mesmerizing.
Goldring DR150 is pretty unforgiving, I can easily hear how bad is Glee record or how 128kbps mp3's sounded much like Lady GaGa second album (yup, it's that bad). Garbage in garbage out. On the other side, SJ33 is much more FUN, especially with mainstream music and or bad recorded music like GaGa, Madonna, Glee, Katy Perry etc.

Isolation is none at all, since it's open headphone. DR150 also leak sound from the grill/mesh on the back, although not very bad. The metal mesh on the back is actually lined with a piece of cloth inside, so you can't see the driver from outside like you do Sennheiser HD600/HD650 or Shure new SRH1440. I'm wondering how would DR150 sounded if I remove the cloth covering the mesh, will I get more airy sound? Will the sound-stage and layering increase? Hm... intriguing. I had to try that sometime in the future.

A bit nitpick, sometimes I felt the sound is not as coherent than, say MS1i or SRH440. It's like there is something which resonating along with the driver causing the sound, like, breaking or diffused or something. Is this the plastic color described by Heafonia review of DR150?! I don't know. It's not that bad, though, since this only apparent when I listening very closely. When I just sit and enjoying the music, I didn't notice it. My SJ33 also exhibit the same problem, at much bigger scale.

The Verdict.
For the price (about USD100-130) I think Godlring DR150 is a very good headphone. The sound definitely is, although I wish the build quality could bit better. It has this dark and luscious sound, meaty bass with punch and some nice treble sparkle on top. If the sound is a food, I say Goldring DR150 is a cake made from dark chocolate, filled with crunchy milk chocolates goodness and sprinkle of vanilla on top. Warm from the oven. Hmmm yummy!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Review: I Am Not Serial Killer (John Cleaver Series by Dan Wells)

This is a book which I whole heartily recommend you to read. This book will give you a side trip to a whole new point of view and different protagonist, there is none of those self sacrifice act, love, simple jealous, or wimpy-cry-baby. This book is all about darker side of human nature: when human kill another human.

So, we have John Wayne Cleaver, your average lone-boy in his teens, which had all those traits: unpopular, subject to bully, loner, have different (sometimes weird) hobby, and socially deficit. What other peoples didn’t know except his mother, his aunt and his therapist, is that John is a diagnosed anti-social and borderline on sociopath.

As I told you before, you won’t find those lovey-dopey relationship here (except if you find how John treat corpse and his fantasy of cutting several other people as lovey-dopey, which if you did I strongly suggest you to visit a therapist). This book will get you into the mind of a sociopath: ruthless, cold, and calculating.

The story is paced rather slowly, not overly slow, but for a story with only one storyline is not very fast. But it has consistent pacing. Even when John finally facing danger and enemy, he still remains cold and calculating, giving me this cold feeling. Reading this novel really like reading a book of biology or chemistry (no, I liked neither Physics nor Mathematics, go figure): everything is dissected plain, systematic, and coldly. But, surprise, the ending has this beautiful moment which feels very strong after the coldness of the story.

The characterization is very good; most of characters are development enough to make them felt real. You can imagine hundred of other people who just like John moms, sister, and other characters. It really felt real. And the simplicity of how the John mind presented is utterly brilliant. I find myself chuckling to dark humor and sarcasm John produce, and I think you will find yourself too.
The detail is very good, and the embalming explanation is very interesting. You can imagine clearly the world John lived.

To be frank, I would happier if the main antagonist on this story is a human (spoiler alert! Highlight if you want to spoil the story! No, the enemy is supra-natural, a demon to be fact). Serial killer versus an almost-serial killer story would be very cool, but then it wouldn’t fit into fantasy novels again if this book do that.
I think, this book is more about how John struggling every day with his dark side, how to be remain normal (or as normal as he could be), and not to be the serial killer his dark side wants to be. It’s a rather sweet and endearing story.

Another irk this novels had is that lot of things on this novel hit right on the spot to me. I don’t know how about other people, but sometime it just very similar how I think, how I feel, especially when I got one of those cold episode, or one of those rage episode. I think these book will hit lots of people spot how it presented the dark nature of human mind. And those loneliness felt (but not realized) by John will touch most of us (realized or not) also felt.

This book is really refreshing. Emotionally-void protagonists are really rare, and the chance to look into the mind of one is really interesting. The plot is rather simple, I could guest the ending most of the time, but the twist on the story make it really interesting, even if this book had those kind ending-come-with-no-sign-nor-preparation kind of plot development (like Earthsea trilogy). And, no, this is not those pure serial killer book, it’s a young-adult novel, for heaven’s sake. Although some site said so, I don't think this series is a trilogy. The ending on third book is too open to be a final book. And, yes, I'm going to write my review for the other two book.

I whole heartily recommend this book for you.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: Control Point by Myke Cole

So, here it is my promised review. This time I want to give my comment about  debut novel by Myke Cole. As I said on my previous post, Mr. Myke Cole is a soldier from US Army, so I find its very intriguing that he write a novel, a fantasy novel to boot.

As expected, this novel (titled Control Point) is very heavy on army color. In fact, the main character IS a soldier. There are lot and lot army-related stuff, from weaponry, slang, jargon, acronym, etc etc. It's very interesting, but rather confusing at first because the author didn't gave any explanation for the words he used, so I forced to guess the meaning. But, overall, this novels has a nice story-telling on it. The quotes from peoples on this book world is a nice touch, help giving impression that this book world is real.

The main characters is rather interesting, and humane. The character development is good. Soldier point-of-view is very interesting, really a new insight to the mind of a soldier. This is just the first book, so I can somewhat forgive lack of development on other characters. I hope Mr. Cole will dig deeper on other characters, which some are very interesting. I personally found Marty (Dobby number #2, anyone?), Theressa (so sweet), and, for the love of God, Scylla, interesting. Especially Scylla. (Shush don't tell others, ok?)

One point I had to give to Mr. Cole for made the main character an African descendant. I'm just sick of this white-bread main character. It's so refreshing to read main characters who are non-white people. Sorry, not being racist, just stating the fact. Okay, that did sounded racist, but it IS the fact. Don't burn me okay?!

The pace is rather fast, but sometimes rather inconsistent, some flashback and scenes feels....forced. Like the writer lost his pace and trying to fill the void. Not as bad as Awakened Mage (a.k.a Innocence Lost by Karen Miller), but it's there. Okay, it's his first novel, so I, again, can forgive him (I'm nice guy, right? Right?). Actions are very good, you won't disappointed by them. I feels some battle are well placed, right when the story starting to get boring, wham, you got some very nice battle.

The magic system is rather conventional one, although some are very interesting (I really, really want the Healer-Render ability or even better, the Negramancy). Magic on this book is coming from another world (it is unexplained whether the world, which nick named The Source, is on the same dimension with us but on different galaxy; or on another dimension altogether).
Because the nature of the magic, overall, magic user are divided into two group (or school as it called on the book): School of Prohibited Magic and School of Legal Magic. People manifested their magic can't choose which kind of magic they got, so when you got magic belongs to Prohibited Magic (Probes), say good bye to your freedom.

For debut fantasy novel, I think Control Point is good. The final battle is definitely good. I can't wait to see how Mr. Cole develop this story, because I think this story had the potential to develop into something BIG. Definitely a keeper.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rant #3: Jaben Jakarta

Last Saturday I'm turned 25 years old, so I though I will go and treat myself a nice new full-sized headphone. Jaben got this birthday special offer, so I'm going to use that. Jaben Jakarta is located at Senayan Trade Center, very easy for me to reach just about 30 minutes by public bus (not counting traffic jam). I got to Jaben Jakarta store at 6.30 PM, give or take.

Jaben Jakarta store is rather small, but very cozy. They welcomed me warmly, and after I told them that I was looking for open full-sized headphone, they offer me to listen to some of their demo headphones. I tried an Alessandro MS1i. I rather excited because this is my first time listening to Alessandro, my one-time experience with Grado SR60i didn't impress me much, I found SR60i too bright for me. So gingerly, I put the MS1i, dial the volume pot on my FiiO E10 to zero, play a song and carefully set the volume up. Boy, how I supprised.

MS1i didn't sounded like what I remember SR60i back then. The treble is crystal clear, the vocal is forward and the bass is punchy. Both male and female vocals are so airy and so free that listening to my Audio-Technica SJ33 I felt boxed. Guitar sounded so crisp, and the vocal is forward, just how I liked it.
The sound-stage (or head-stage if you like) is way bigger than the SR60i on my memory. I don't know the pad they used, but it's different to the one SR60i has. Comfortable enough, the headphone just sit on my head. But I don't like how the pad touched my ears. It got rather itchy after several songs lol.

Next I asked for another open headphone to listen to and they gave me Goldring DR150. So, this is the headphone called poor-man's Sennheiser HD650, I thought. I put it on my head, put some song to play, and Holy Sh*t!!! I never knew Fatoumata Diawara's Kanou has those nice bass! And her nice!!! Not as airy as MS1i, but with enough breath to it. Compared to MS1i, DR150 is less airy, but also less sibilant. DR150 bass also way bigger than MS1i bass. DR150 made MS1i sounded thin. Not that MS1i is bad, but generally I prefer darker sound-signature myself. I like my male vocals a touch of dark and heavy, and my female vocal to be as clean as possible. Looking from other side, MS1i vocals is sounded much more effortless, while DR150 is rather heavy.

It's a mantra to audiophile and music lovers crowd that before you buy an equipment, try as much as possible to listen other equipments, so I asked for another headphone. Jaben folk told me that the other headphone on my price range that they have are closed back, but I told them I don't mind, so they gave me Shure 440 to listen. OMG! Such high-class customer service!!! Really love Jaben....

How Shure 440 sounded? As a closed back, it doesn't has nice air or breath than Goldring and Alessandro has, but Shure has this nice clear vocal. Vocal is forwarder than MS1i (really, what pad they put on those MS1i?) and very, very clear. I can hear Adele breath when she sang Someone Like You, Live at The Royal Albert Hall. But the sound-stage isn't as nice as neither MS1i nor DR150. Both MS1i and DR150 got better layering, and better 3 dimensional space. The bass is rather weak, tad weaker than MS1i, but much clearer. I think that because of less mid-bass. And also very clean, making DR150 sounded like it had a veil on it.

So, after trading and comparing one to another, I put my choice on Goldring DR150. I want a headphone with good sound-stage and layering, and smoother sound, both are things that my Audio-Technica SJ33 lack. Not that my Audio-Technica bad, actually it's very good and very fun to listen to. I just want more refined sound, and more comfortable for home listening.

Because it's my birthday, Jaben give me some discount. Actually they as me to choose: price discount or gift (it's an Sony Jienna IEM and Jaben headphone stand), but I choose price discount. Why? because those money could go to Brainwavz HM5 when they came here fufufufufufu......

 For you who want to buy or try a nice set of headphone, go to Jaben. They are very friendly, and very warm, and they let you try almost all headphones and amplifiers that they had. They got some very nice offering (like birthday specials, bundle specials), even starting bundle special (they let you pay 60% first, then the 40% twice on two month schedule), and sometime a lucky draw (where they give out a headphone or IEM to a lucky guest).
They even offering me to try the Shure 1440, the newest Shure open headphone (which very expensive), and I had to swallow my saliva and politely reject the offer. After paying my headphone, I rather hurriedly haul my ass out before they offers me another scary headphone to try on. No, my wallet can't suffer those price.

All my rant above actually just an impression, because I only listen them for some time, and don't treat them as a review. I only write my review if I can get my paw on those headphone long enough, maybe several weeks. Right now I'm burning my new Goldring DR150, and I plan to write a review on them after they got enough time to settle to their sound. Thanks for reading this rant of me, lets meet again on the next post!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rant #2

So, I'm still reading Indonesian version of Eye of The World (1st book from The Wheel of Time series). My progress isn't as fast as when I'm reading the English version. I find my mind rather difficult to adjusting to the way Indonesia language building scenes and atmospheres. And the translation too, rather hard to swallow. Some places name are translated into Indonesian, while some are not, thus creating strange feeling. And there are some translation which, I feel, rather odd and could be better. But then I'm a purist, so maybe for peoples who read this novel for the first time will find the translation good.
I haven't read all the book, so I can't give my review, but so far so good. Just need to open Indonesian dictionary, as lot of words used are seldom used on every-day life. I'm ashamed lol.

I really dislike the paper they used here. Not only it's brown-greyish in color, but also very thin, I literally could see the letters printed on the backside. But seeing the size of the novels, I could somewhat understand it, they must be trying to reduce the cost by using cheaper paper. For comparison, Indonesian version of Harry Potter novels has thicker papers. And the models for the cover.... dear God, I don't think they can find models more different to book descriptions than the models used here. Indonesian version of Earthsea Trilogy has much, much cooler covers...

With the reading pace I'm now, I don't think I can finish the book by the end of the month. I got some assignment from my boss, and by the end of march I got reassigned to our branch of office on Balikpapan, Kalimantan (or Borneo Island, like most European and American knows it). There I got positioned either as Project Engineer or as Business Process and Development officer. Personally, Project Engineer is more inline with my education, but I'm open to challenge :).

Oh, almost forgot, today is my Birthday!!! Yay!!! Happy Birthday to me!!! Happy 25 years old!!! For my self buy present, I planned to go to Jaben Indonesia (branch Jakarta). I want to buy an open, full-sized headphone for home listening. Something which has different sound-signature to my Audio-Technica SJ33 would be the best. Actually I'm waiting for Brainwavz HM5 to come to a local store, but I don't think I'm gonna waiting anymore, it's too long! Maybe it could be my 2nd purchase?!? lol

For you reader of this boring blog of mine, don't worry, I still have about 2 reviews on my pocket, so you don't have to wait me finish reading Eye of The World. Have a nice day!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Review: Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin (Updated)

The Earthsea Trilogy Cover (First Edition, circa '70s)
New isn't always better and old  isn't always worse. And this is true to some fantasy novels I read. For example: Eragon (Inheritance Cycle) which fall to the first category while Earthsea trilogy fall to other category. So allow me to add my review to all review about Earthsea Trilogy.

This story (or stories) is actually an old novels from circa '70s, starting by A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971) and The Farthest Shore (1972). But this trilogy then expanded by two more novels (Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, 1990; and The Other Wind, 2001) and one short stories compilation (Tales from Earthsea, 2001). But I just want to review the original trilogy, while the extension books I will put it on the other post.

When I start reading A Wizard if Earthsea, I brace myself for another long explanation with old-style narration novels. And boy, I'm not disappointed. This book has those oldie kind of story telling. BUT, after reading all three books, I just can't stop myself to say how sweet it was! Yes, this book has those smooth, flowing and feathery style. Not the stuffed-kind, but fresh-and-sweet-kind of story telling.

Just like other (epic) fantasy novels, we will met long explanation about the origin of the main character(s): how they born and grow up (both in mind and in power), etc. But it's all packed on simple and beautiful way, with enough detail to satisfy, and sweet-and-bitter parts on it. Brilliant.

Characterization is pretty good, enough dept to be fascinating, but not too deep to be boring. But I just can't shake the feeling how so many characters are have this sweet and/or innocent nature to them. On every book you will find them, mark my words. The antagonist too, are rather simple (as in character, not in intelligence). But I like how LeGuin put philosophy on her stories. Reading this trilogy, I just can't stop to think about my life, human natures, and etc. Very interesting.

Not many actions on this series. You won't find those awesome battles like on Mistborn Trilogy, or gut wrenching actions on The Wheel of Time series, or even magical moments like on House of Night series. There are some heart-racing inducing moments, but nothing too spectacular. I think most of the actions and battle on this book are about battle with yourselves, fighting between your heart desire with your conciseness, etc. It's all about good and evil inside our heart, mind, and soul.

The magical system established by LeGuin is an interesting one. On Earthsea, wizardry is an art of men, while women art are usually about healing etc. Yes, the world of Earthsea is very chauvinistic. There is some kind of old language (or old tongue), which how magic is usually conducted (although not all magic use it). Also, those old-language are written as rune, which also has the power to do magic. This magical system reminds me strongly to those God-Word on Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. Or maybe it's more correct to say that Inheritance Trilogy magical system is similar to Earthsea Trilogy. Every magic on Earthsea is based on balance, or equilibrium: you do nothing to upset the world's balance or equilibrium. This aspect is just like those Discworld magic, its also work on equilibrium basis.

Reading Earthsea Trilogy will give you those lost-in-time feeling. The pace is moderate, not too slow, but not too fast either. The plot is simple and straight forward, easy to follow. And the finale of each book is simple, nothing to give clue that the story is nearing it finale, it just... finished. But the end capable of giving you the feeling of fulfillment. Maybe the finale is not very spectacular (compared to novels like Mistborn, Black Jewels, The Wheel of Time, etc), but it's has it's own charm: the bitter-sweet feeling you got after finished reading. Very recommended.

Update: last Sunday I went to our local bookstore and look what I found on the shelves:
The Tombs of Atuan and A Wizard of Earthsea
The Farthest Shore
All Three Book. Love the cover, very nice!
If I'm not mistaken, its priced about $5 or $6 (45-60 ribu rupiah). Very cheap, considering the quality of the story. I don't know the translation, because I haven't got them, yet. I planned to picked them next month, because this month book budget is already null lol.

However, I took home a copy of Indonesian version of The Eye of The World, the first book from The Wheel of Time, because I'm interested comparing the original (English version) with the translation version. I'm wondering how much the nuance and atmosphere of the book could be captured and translated into the Indonesian version. Just wait for it, I got to finish one or two more review and one and half books before that.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: dbE PR10 earphone

To be honest, I actually rather dislike earphone because my rather special (yes, I'm special. Get over it) ear shape which causing discomfort after wearing earphone for several minutes. Those shape also make wearing earphone a hassle because it fall out easily. But I got stuck to earphone because when I'm at work and want to listen to music, I can't wear my trusted AudioTechnica SJ33 headphone because its pretty big (it's supra-aural after all), while my MEElectronic M6 isolate too much noise so I can't hear if the phone ringing or if someone call me. So I get this cheap earphone which from our local audiophile forum said great (for the price).
Warning: as I said before, I haven't got many experience with earphone/earbud as I rather dislike them. Take this review with grain and salt.

The Package.
This earphone come with a thin cardboard box. Inside is the earphone itself, a pair of foam, a cloth pounch (which is great, I even used it to store my cellphone sometimes lol), and some papers.

The box. Simple and elegant.
The Build.
The build is pretty decent, the construction is much better than those cheap earphone which come with your cellphone, your portable music player or buy at those electronic store. Not as good as my MEElectronic M6 (which priced higher) but I think it can stand some rough handling (yes, I'm clumsy). The cable is on the thin side. Better than those cheap earphone, though, and made from some rubber which nice to touch. Again, not as good as M6 cable (which very good, and very nice to look at).
The earphone and the cloth pouch included.
Another view.

The Sound.
This earphone got about 100 hours usage, so I'm pretty sure the sound wouldn't changed again (burned in, so to speak). So, how the sound? To state it simply: bright.

This earphone got those nice sparkle on high register, making guitar bite, and female vocal sounded nice and forward, just the way I like it. BUT, high male vocal just neither as nice nor as forward the way female vocal is. Not recessed, just not as forward as female vocal. I tried this earphone with wide range of male vocals, from Il Divo, Sam Sparrow, Il Volo (this trio young classical crossover is GREAT!!!), Joe Jonas, Gregorian to Scotty McCreery, it's always the high male vocals which bit strange while low male vocal are pretty nice and forward.

Mid-tone are pretty nice, again, with sparkle to it, while low are tight and punchy. Drum sounded so nice and punchy on this. Compared to M6, PR10 low are mostly centered around mid-bass. I can hear it clearly on Joe Jonas 'See No More' both on vocal version and instrumental version. The dark, sultry cello on the song didn't as clear as on M6. Sub-bass is almost non-existent, but then maybe because it didn't isolate at all, so the sub-bass tone got loss dunno where (dimanaa~~ dimanaa~~ Ayu Ting-Ting, anyone?)

Sound-stage (or head-stage) is pretty cramped, creating on-stage and in-your-face feeling. Instrument separation is so-so, again, my M6 is better. On simple arrangements like on solos or acoustic sessions this isn't seen, but move to more complex, many layered piece, like Florence + The Machine or some Mozart classical piece, and you can hear how the instrument just smashed together.

Isolation, like I said before, is practically non-existed. None. At. All. So, if you plan to listen to music on the public transportation, please use IEM instead. Save your ear and hearing by not blasting LOUD music to it, IEM will isolate noise so you don't have to BLAST your music volume. Also, IEM will good to your karma, or sin-level, or whatever you call it, as you won't disturb fellow passenger with those tiny-tiny sound from your earphone just because you BLAST is to the MAX. Please, use IEM (In Ear Monitor) instead.

What this earphone do better from my M6 is how the high and mid sounded so airy and... free. No more cramped and boxed sound, everything is just has this nice breath to it. M6, because of its IEM nature, just didn't have the same airy feeling.
Also, PR10 gave me this feeling how the sound frequency is whole, while M6 sounded like it got some drop on mid then peak on high-tone. Okay, maybe male vocal isn't very good, but it's not that bad. Vocal on M6 sounded rather thin compared on the PR10. On PR10, vocal is thicker with sparkle on it, not thin and boxed like M6 is.

The Verdict.
For about USD 11 (it's priced IDR 100.000 locally), I think this earphone is great. Maybe not as good as MEElectronic M6, but then M6 is priced higher (about USD 15-18). And yes, my AudioTechica SJ33 absolutely murder both on sound-quality. But then my SJ33 is priced at USD45-58, which 5 times PR10 price. So, if you still stuck with those cheap earphone from your portable media player or cellphone, or any others, try this earphone from dbE acoustic. It's really bargain for the price: cheap but good.

Thank you, Arif, for the photos, they are great!!! :D

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Ugh, sorry for making you read this. I just can't make myself to write anything right now. So I'll just rant what I got on my mind.

I got several books to review, several more to read, several to finish (uh, A Game of Throne is just too heavy on politic that it pissing me off). And I just got better after several nasty and sudden attack of fever. I mean, I was sleeping peacefully when I suddenly woke up shivering, I was so cold inside, while outside I was burning. Seriously, my whole body just locked up in this nasty shivering, I can't even get up to switch the light on. Thanks God its better after several hours of sleeping with blanket. The fever went down, but going up again the next day so I skipped work. Ugh, and I got some kind of training scheduled the next day.

The week been hectic, with my fever, two days training, then, I got sick AGAIN. This time I got influenza. So last Friday I skipped work again. Feels better after drinking some drugs. So here I now, not in the mood for writing, reading, even listening to music (which I LOVE, life without music is not life. Yes, I'm music addict).

Got some movies from a friend, just finished Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I. If what I do count as watching as I repeatedly press fast-forward button. I mean, that movie is just..... horrible, as in why-they-even-think-to-made-it? and what-the-hell-the-director-do? (or maybe more correctly put as, who-the-hell-the-director-is?) and is-that-suppossed-to-be-acting? and I-just-want-to-burn-it kind of horrible.

Okay, some scenes is nice, like the wedding (although it wasn't like the novel description. Or what my mind conjure from the novel description, anyway), and when Bella open her red newborn vampire eyes. Now, that's what you call dramatic. But the others? Hell, thanks God I didn't watch the previous movies. Why, because it was such a MESS (okay, the baby is cute). Nothing like the novel said. And yes, I'm purist (as in, novel-to-movie-purist and music-purist).
I think Harry Potter movies was bad (the first is ok, second u-hum, third is ok, fourth meh, fifth bleargh, sixth what-the-hell-is-it, seventh is....dull (part 1) and disappointing (part 2)), but Twilight movies give me new standard for BAD.
It's not films based on Twilight novels, but films loosely inspired by Twilight novels.

My body is tired, my eyes is heavy, but my mind is running 200km/h on the wrong line (t.A.T.u anyone?). Tomorrow is another working day, and I think I successfully annoy you enough by now, so I'll just shut up. Thanks for reading this rant. Bye!!!

ps: I got two review waiting on my mind: a cheap-but-good earphone, and a debut novel by an American soldier. Yupe, an American soldier write novel. Fantasy novel. Can you imagine that? Army - fantasy novel?!? Okay, I'll shut up for now.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Review: Demon Squad by Tim Marquitz

I got lot of recommendation of good books (especially from fantasy genre) from Fantasybook review site. But I kind of bored, because lot of those fantasy novels are placed on somewhere far away, or unknown world, or or, oh you know what I mean. And most of those stories using this old kind of story-telling, which bore me to death. Okay, not to death, and I still LOVE fantasy novels. But I want something DIFFERENT, story take place on simpler setting, place easier to imagine. Good were my imaginations, it still need break now and again.

So, I browse and browse and browse, and stumbled upon this novel by Tim Marquitz. It's from his series called 'Demon Squad' and took place on alternate version of OUR world. Fantasy with demon, angel, magic took place on OUR world (albeit the alternate version one)? I'm on it.

The first novel is titled "Armageddon Bound", the second one is "Ressurection", and the third is "At the Gates". I will review only the first two book, because I haven't got my paw on the third book (just you wait, book!!!) YET. So here you go.

On the first paragraph, we already meet violence. The main character, Frank "Triggaltheron" Trigg, is assaulted for information of an angel called Scarlet, although it's not for long because he didn't know where the angel in question is. From there the story continued. Yup, no 'proper' character introduction etc, even I learned the history of the main character (which is part Devil, btw, and direct nephew to Lucifer himself. And yes, that Lucifer, you know, the one who was the brightest angel then fallen etc etc?) some where along the story line.

Like I said before, this books took place on alternate version of our world, where angel, devil and magician (or wizard) are live together on earth (not ALL of them of course, some still dwell on heaven or hell), what with the  departed God and Satan. Ops, did I say departed? Yes, in this novel world, God make truce with Satan then depart to unknown place (possibly void, as Trigg think later), leaving the world (as in heaven, hell and human realm) to take care for it selves

Lot of intrigues and double crosses and heavy dose of Trigg remarks of women bodies (he's a horn dog, if I have to say so) and lot and lot of actions. Actually, most of story line are composed of actions (in which Trigg usually got out-classed - both physically and magically - and got pounded and generally got lucky), with several recurring characters.

Character development is rather sparse. Almost all character in this novel are having those 'set' character with limited or none development. On good side, it refreshing because there are none of those psychologist-like character delve. But on bad side, it made the characters rather two dimensional and too simple, almost no dept to it.

From story side, I think this novels rather interesting. The twisted world, lot of actions, rather simple but funny main character, several surprise and twist on ending are very nice. Really, this novels are what I need, nice break from stuffed world of fantasy novels. The pace are rather fast, with nice story building. But I got this feeling like, the ending on first novel are too abrupt. The 'bridge' to finale are too short, not enough suspense building before the characters got to main actions. The second novel are better, but still not long enough. Or maybe I just too used to those nerve-racking finale fantasy novels (Wheel of Time series, anyone?)

I really like the simple, funny, rebellious but very manly Trigg. He is really different with the main character from other fantasy novels I've read. I think this is the first time I read a novel where the main character is a street prowler, a thug, to speak. I just wish other characters are as strong as him. Strong as in characterization, not on power level. In fact, Trigg placed on rather low power level, what with his rejection on Anti-Christ position. Ops! Did I just spoil it for you? :D

For you who want light fantasy novel, or just want a light reading (although with lot of actions packed on this novels it can't be called 'light'), or liked angel-demon book, or just want to try something else, I recommend you to try this book. Maybe you'll like it, maybe you won't. I personally can't wait to get my paw on the third book...

Review: Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

Note: this is my first review on English, so I apologize for any wrong grammar. English isn't my mother language.

This album Born To Die is an album by Lana Del Rey. For you who doesn't know her (yet), she also known as Lizzy Grant. In fact, she has already release an album (or mini-album or EP) before, using Lizzy Grant alias, but all trace of her persona were deleted when Lizzy (or Lana) sign to her current label. In fact, her management make sure ALL trace of Lizzy Grant was deleted, including her EP, website, etc. This "persona killing" is kind of make internet-crowd rather... unhappy. Yes that big italic-bold font I used there.

Anyway, regardless to what internet-crowd said, I would like to make a review (to stretch it a bit) for Lana Del Rey debut album. This album, released January 30th, titled 'Born To Die', composed of 12 tracks (mine is the Special Edition, which included 3 bonus tracks).

The album tracks list:
1.     Born to Die  
2.     Off to the Races  
3.     Blue Jeans  
4.     Video Games  
5.     Diet Mountain Dew  
6.     National Anthem  
7.     Dark Paradise  
8.     Radio  
9.     Carmen  
10.     Million Dollar Man  
11.     Summertime Sadness  
12.     This Is What Makes Us Girls
while the Special Edition bonus tracks are:
13.     Without You 
14.     Lolita 
15.     Lucky Ones   

Del Rey vocal is rather unique. Her voice reminds me to those old songs, when stereo record haven't invented yet. Low, dark, and sultry. Her voice really make 'Born to Die' shine. This dark song, with touch of orchestra, really nice to listen to. Third track 'Video Games' (which gone viral several months ago) also has the same nice tone because Del Reys vocal. And, yes, I'm kind of partial to low and dark voice.

Pity Del Rey didn't use the same voice on the other songs. Yes, she still maintain the same breathy low voice, but the high tone is more like..... bitchy, pardon for the french. Her high on the other song lost the dark and mature voice 'Born to Die' and 'Video Games' has, instead, she sounded whiny.
Don't take me wrong, on some song, this bitchy sound kind of in line with the song, like on the 2nd track, 'Off to the Races', and 'Dark Paradise' (which my 3rd favorite track), but I wish Del Rey go for dark and mature version of her voice.

From lyrical side, I have to point that Del Rey album didn't has the best lyric. It, more or less, has the same tone of 'good girl gone bad' or 'good girl fall for bad boy' etc, but some are rather nice, like when she sang Now my life is sweet like cinnamon / Like a fucking dream I'm living in / Baby love me cause I'm playing on the radio / How do you like me now? on 'Radio'. Or how she sang Money is the anthem of success / So put on mascara, and your party dress on 'National Anthem'. It's all about love, money, party, sex and fame.

So, after listening to this album several days, my opinion is rather mixed. On one side, this album has this dark atmosphere, which I kinda liked, and unique sound to it. Some of the songs has this nice beat, which make me tap my feet. But on the other side, the tone of the songs are kind of similar. This similarity made the album felt whole. BUT, it also could make it dull. Which one is this album lay, I'll let you decide it by yourself.
And we're off to the races, places / Ready, set the gate is down and now we're goin' in / To Las Vegas chaos, Casino Oasis, honey it is time to spin

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Florence + The Machine

Jujur saja, saya baru pertama ini kenal dengan artis yang bernama Florence dan grup pendampingnya yang menggunakan nama The Machine. Saya awalnya membaca review album ini dari situs majalah Rollingstone, lalu saya iseng mendengarkan demo lagunya, dan jatuh cinta dengan suara dan musiknya.

Terdiri dari 12 track lagu, dimulai dari:
  1. "Only If for a Night"
  2. "Shake It Out"
  3. "What the Water Gave Me"
  4. "Never Let Me Go"
  5. "Breaking Down"
  6. "Lover to Lover"
  7. "No Light, No Light"
  8. "Seven Devils"
  9. "Heartlines"
  10. "Spectrum"
  11. "All This and Heaven Too"
  12. "Leave My Body"
saya melalap satu album tanpa sadar, karena terhanyut dengan suasana album yang berbeda.

Album ini sangat kaya akan suara dan instrumen, dengan backing vocal, menciptakan musik yang berlapis-lapis. Efek gaung yang digunakan membuat kesan megah, namun juga menambah keruwetan dari album ini. Dengan FiiO E10 DAC dan headphone Audio-Technica SJ33, saya dapat membedakan berbagai detil instrumen, vokal dan backing vokal, dan gaung dengan jelas. Dengan soundcard onboard dan SJ33, detil banyak yang hilang, instrumen lebih bercampur, membuat suasana ruwet. Saya kurang menyarankan anda mendengarkan dengan perangkat yang separasinya kurang bagus, karena album ini benar-benar kaya akan detil dan layering.

Vokal Florence Welch bersinar di album ini, tarikan nafas, getaran suaranya, intonasi, teknik vokal, benar-benar menyatu dengan musik. Di saat artis-artis sekarang berlomba mengeluarkan album dengan musik yang heavy bass, synthesizers, auto-tunes, dan berbagai bling-bling lainnya, album Ceremonials ini berkesan tradisional, liar, klasik, gelap, namun tetap megah dan bersinar. Mendengarkan album ini setelah rentetan Britney Spears, Rihanna, Katy Perry dan berbagai artis mainstream senada lainnya, rasanya seperti keluar menikmati angin malam yang dingin dan segar setelah berjam-jam berada di ruangan diskotik yang panas, sumpek dan penuh aroma seksual.

Kalau anda ingin merasakan album yang berbeda dari album kebanyakan, silakan mencoba album ini. Saya sarankan anda mendengarkan album ini dengan perangkat yang mempunyai separasi dan sound-stage yang bagus, karena anda pasti akan terpana dengan kekayaan musik album ini.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Review: The Weeknd - Echoes of Silence

Aliran Dub-step sebenarnya kurang saya sukai karena saya kurang ngeh dengan musik tersebut, sama seperti pure Jazz, sehingga saya tidak bisa menikmati musik aliran tersebut. Namun saya sangat menikmati album pertama The Weeknd (House of Baloon), dan sekarang saya kembali terhanyut dengan album ketiga dari The Weeknd yang berjudul Echoes of Silence (saya belum sempat mendengarkan album keduanya).

Dari track pertama sampai track terakhir, album ini sangat berbeda dengan album pertama (House of Baloon). Drum lebih tegas, mantab, dengan beat yang relatif lebih cepat dibandingkan dengan album pertama yang yang slow, easy going, dan menghanyutkan.

Ada 9 track lagu di mix-tape ini, dan semuanya menghanyutkan...
  1. "D.D."
  2. "Montreal"
  3. "Outside"
  4. "XO"/"The Host"
  5. "Initiation"
  6. "Same Old Song"
  7. "The Fall"
  8. "Next"
  9. "Echoes of Silence"
Secara pribadi saya sangat menyukai "D.D." dan "Montreal".
Album ini paling nikmat jika didengarkan berkelanjutan, karena seluruh lagu di mix-tape ini merupakan satu rangkai yang berkelanjutan. Vokal falsetto Abel Tesfaye lembut mengalir, meliuk diantara hentakan drum dan melodi, membuat satu kesatuan musik yang menghanyutkan.

Kalau anda ingin mencoba aliran dub-step, album The Weeknd ini bisa anda coba. Saya sendiri sangat menikmatinya.
berikutnya: review album Lana Del Rey, Born To Die

PC Sync untuk Nexian Cosmic Journey (Gigabyte Gsmart G1315)

Pengguna Nexian Cosmic Journey saat menghubungkan ponsel ke komputer dengan kabel data pasti akan menemui berbagai pilihan, salah satunya PC Sync. Namun sayangnya perangkat lunak untuk melakukan sinkronisasi tidak tersedia, baik di ROM ponsel, di paket pembelian, maupun di situs Nexian. Akibatnya, kita tidak dapat melakukan akses ke pesan, kontak dan berbagai data lain melalui komputer. Proses backup manual juga tidak dapat dilakukan. Memang ada fasilitas sinkronisasi melalui server Google, tetapi kurang komplit rasanya jika kita tidak dapat melakukan edit secara manual.

Saya mencoba menghubungi Gigabyte selaku OEM ponsel ini, namun sayang sekali, jawaban dari mereka tidak memuaskan. Inti dari jawaban mereka adalah: ponsel yang mereka jual, dukungannya diserahkan kepada si pembeli tersebut, dan Gigabyte sudah lepas tangan. Grr..... ngeselin.

Namun kekesalan tersebut berakhir sudah, karena saya menemukan situs tempat mengunduh perangkat lunak untuk ponsel Nexian Cosmic Journey / Gigabyte Gsmart G1315!!! Tidak hanya perangkat lunak untuk sinkronisasi dan management, tetapi juga berkas pembaruan firmware. Mantab.

Kali ini saya ingin membahas perangkat lunak untuk management ponsel yang bernama Android Manager. Perangkat lunak ini dapat diunduh di sini. Pastikan koneksi internet anda stabil, karena ukurannya lumayan besar, sekitar 55,4 Mb. Setelah selesai, ekstrak dan install. Tampilan awalnya seperti ini:

Simbol ponsel-komputer di kiri bawah akan berubah hijau saat ponsel tersambung.
 Ada beberapa menu yang tersedia: Contacts, Messages, Photos, Videos, Music, Application, Files, Sync. Di menu Sync, kita bisa mensinkronisasi berbagai berkas: Contacts, Calendar, Camera, Camcorder dan Folders. Untuk melakukan backup data menyeluruh, ada di menu di toolbar atas File > Backup & Restore. Sekarang jika anda sedang tidak ada koneksi internet, anda tetap dapat mem-backup data-data anda dengan komputer.
Menu Sync.
 Selamat menggunakan.

Update Android Nexian Cosmic Journey (Updated 1,2)


Saya sudah cukup lama menggunakan ponsel Nexian Cosmic Journey.  Ada beberapa kekurangan yang saya temui: sim card yang sering tidak terdeteksi, output headset yang amburadul, layar yang over-sensitive, sering restart saat dihubungkan ke komputer dengan kabel data, dan sensor sinar yang tidak bekerja semestinya.
Setelah melihat-lihat sistemnya, ternyata ponsel Nexian Cosmic Journey sejatinya rebrand dari ponsel buatan Gigabyte: Gsmart G1315, namun dengan modul kamera yang dikecilkan menjadi 3 mega pixel. Di web Gsmart sendiri, ternyata sudah ada update firmware yang mengatasi masalah-masalah tersebut. Namun sayangnya pihak Nexian agak lambat dan kurang terbuka dalam penyediaan update tersebut. Di website Nexian tidak ada keterangan update ataupun software yang bisa diunduh untuk ponsel Cosmic Journey ini.

Dari hasil browsing internet, saya menemukan firware terbaru untuk Gsmart G1315 ini adalah 0.50.2 sedangkan versi bawaan Coney adalah 0.21.8. Banyak pembenahan yang  dibawa versi ini. Tapi sayangnya, saat saya coba untuk memperbarui Coney saya dengan berkas ini, proses gagal karena versi dan tipe ponsel yang berbeda. Frustasi, saya bersabar saja, sampai akhrinya ada informasi dari forum lokal mengenai update yang tersedia di Nexian Center. Menyebalkan, kenapa Nexian tidak membuat pengumuman resmi? Atau menyediakan berkasnya untuk diunduh, seperti pada saat update Nexian Journey dulu?

Buat yang malas ke Nexian Center (seperti saya), atau jauh dari Nexian Center, dan mempunyai koneksi internet yang stabil, ada work-around untuk memasang pembaruan Gsmart G1315 ke Coney. Caranya seperti ini:
1. Siapkan berkas pembaruan yang hendak dipasang. Anda bisa mengunduh berkasnya di sini. Pastikan koneksi anda stabil (tidak putus-putus) karena ukuran berkas lumayan besar, sekitar 99 Mb. Sayangnya di situs tersebut tidak ada md5sum dari berkas yang disediakan, jadi kita bisa melakukan pengecekan apakah berkas yang kita unduh sempurna atau tidak. Kalau md5sum dari berkas yang saya unduh dan gunakan ( adalah:
Melakukan pengecekan md5sum (untuk windows) bisa menggunakan perangkat lunak dari sini.

2. Pastikan anda sudah melakukan rooting Coney anda. Gunakan z4root. Lalu gunakan aplikasi Root Explorer untuk menjelajah berkas di sistem Coney. Lakukan backup seluruh data dan sistem anda, baik secara online atau menggunakan Titanium Backup. Jika menggunakan Titanium Backup, jangan lupa membuat pemasang Titanium Backup Safe Mode ( untuk berjaga-jaga.

3. Menggunakan Root Explorer, edit berkas berikut:
(maksudnya adalah, jelajahi berkas sistem anda di bagian System lalu ke Etc lalu di dalam folder Etc tsb, cari berkas bernama sw_ver.txt). Cari baris
ganti "Nexian" dengan "pl_cz".

 4. Edit berkas:
Ganti semua bagian "Nexian" dengan "Gsmart" dan "A892" dengan "G1315". Jangan lupa simpan.

5. Ekstrak berkas ZIP yang tadi diunduh, di dalamnya ada berkas bernama, salin berkas tersebut ke dalam kartu microsd anda. Taruh di bagian paling atas, jangan masukkan ke dalam folder apapun. Anda bisa menggunakan pembaca kartu (card reader) atau kabel data Coney.

6. Matikan ponsel, pastikan baterai terisi penuh untuk menghindari ponsel mati saat proses pembaruan berjalan. Tekan dan tahan tombol kamera, lalu tekan tombol power. Saat lampu indikator ponsel sudah berkedip biru, anda dapat melepas tombol kamera. Ponsel akan masuk ke System Recovery Mode, dan anda akan menjumpai pilihan untuk melakukan update. Gunakan tombol volume untuk bergulir ke atas/bawah dan tombol kamera untuk memilih.

7. Jawab "Ya" untuk memulai proses pembaruan. Tunggu hingga ponsel melakukan restart. Jika ada masalah, atau tidak bisa masuk ke home, masuk ke System Recovery Mode lagi, lalu lakukan wipe cache dan wipe data. Lalu nyalakan ulang. Selesai.
Tampilan booting:
Firmware baru menggunakan Android 2.2.2 sedangkan sebelumnya adalah 2.2.1:

Tampilan home baru:
Pembaruan ini menyelesaikan semua masalah yang saya sebutkan di bagian awal tulisan: sim card tidak lagi muncul hilang (lebih stabil), output headphone stabil bersih, sensor sinar (untuk pengaturan kecerahan layar otomatis) bekerja dengan baik, layar tidak berlebihan lagi, dan tidak restart saat di hubungkan ke komputer dengan kabel data. Juga ada tambahan menu baru: People.

Saya menemui bug: jika Coney dijadikan hotspot (menggunakan fasilitas wireless tethering), Coney selalu terkunci, dalam artian layar mati, tidak dapat dibawa hidup. Bahkan saat saya coba telpon dengan ponsel lain, Coney saya tidak memberikan reaksi apa-apa, padahal sudah ada nada tunggu di ponsel yang saya gunakan untuk menelpon. Satu-satunya cara adalah cabut baterai, karena ponsel benar-benar terkunci, semua tombol tidak berfungsi. Namun anehnya, tethering tetap jalan, karena saya tetap dapat mengakses internet dari laptop saya. Untuk USB Tethering sendiri, saat awal-awal digunakan tidak ada masalah, namun saat mengakses menu, akhirnya sama saja seperti wireless tethering, Coney terkunci dan tidak dapat diakses walau proses tethering tetap berjalan.
Alternatif: gunakan aplikasi tethering dari Market. Saya mencoba OpenGarden (wireless tethering) dan Coney tetap dapat diakses walau tethering berjalan). Update 1: menggunakan Open Garden, tethering putus beberapa saat setelah layar mati. Mungkin karena kebijakan power saving.
Update 2: Setelah dipergunakan beberapa lama, sekarang saya sudah tidak pernah menjumpai bug ini. Mungkin setelah dilakukan flash ulang sistem Coney masih belum stabil, atau hang dikarenakan kepanasan.

Ingat: semua resiko anda tanggung sendiri. Semua label dan software bawaan Nexian akan dihapus dan diganti bawaan Gigabyte Gsmart. Anda dapat menyalin berkas bawaan Nexian untuk mengganti berkas Gsmart setelah update. Dan anda dapat mengganti semua Gigabyte GSmart G1315 di build.prob dan sw_vers.txt kembali ke Nexian dan A892 jika anda mau.

Selamat mencoba, semoga berhasil.